Hunter and Yates Johnson on their Mentors, Winning in a Rival’s Backyard, and Achieving their Goals
After winning their fourth title of the year at the Oracle Pro Series – Fort Worth, Hunter and Yates Johnson are improving each week to rise in the ranks of tennis’ best doubles teams. Although the duo is extremely talented, they benefit from an advantage not many other teams have – they are twins.
“To be twins and have a built-in partner is pretty special,” said Yates. “And it’s not a bad thing to be compared in that way to the Bryan Brothers.”
He is talking, of course, about Bob and Mike Bryan, the winningest doubles team in tennis history. The duo has won 118 ATP Tour titles, including 16 Grand Slams. But they also take time to advise and support the younger generation, especially twins like Hunter and Yates.
“They are our mentors,” continued Yates. “We know them really well and train with them a lot, so we are learning from them and trying to follow in their footsteps. No one will ever be able to do what they have done, they’re the greatest of all time.”
Last weekend, Hunter and Yates, who played collegiately at Southern Methodist University (SMU), defeated Emhardt/Perez, 6-2, 6-4, in the doubles final of the Oracle Pro Series – Fort Worth. Incidentally, the event took place at Texas Christian University (TCU), who is SMU’s biggest rival.
“We played here a couple times while we were in school,” said Yates. “They’re technically our rivals, but we unfortunately never beat them in tennis while we were on the team. But we got them in football this year, which was a huge win for the SMU Ponies.”
“It’s really nice to play here, though,” added Hunter. “They re-did the courts so they’re a little bit different. TCU always had a huge home-court advantage when we would play them here, so it’s nice to play and win in the Pro Series.”
The duo took time out of their match schedule to visit their home courts in Dallas to catch the Oracle Pro Series Exhibition featuring Coco Gauff, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier and Christina McHale. They were also selected to attempt to return a serve by Courier, a 4-time Grand Slam Champion and Tennis Hall of Famer.
“We wanted Roddick,” reflected Yates. “Jim was firing them in there, he was hitting them pretty hard. But for the record, I ripped a backhand winner crosscourt on the last one.”
“Jim went for my head on one of his serves,” added Hunter. “So I’ll have to get him back one day for that if I ever get the opportunity to hit with him again.”
The duo is improving week to week and looking forward to playing more Oracle Pro Series events in the future. But, of course, they have their sights set on the pinnacle of the sport.
“Obviously being American, the goal is to win the US Open as it’s one of the most special tournaments,” said Yates. “In terms of Grand Slams, everyone also wants to win Wimbledon as one of the most prestigious tournaments there is.”
“And where doubles plays three out of five sets,” added Hunter. “Which is way more difficult to win.”
The twins clearly are not a pair to shy away from a challenge, which will serve them well in the Oracle Pro Series and beyond.